Some like it hot.
Not the scorching inferno down the throat type.
But a clear-the-sinuses, combustion-of-the-nose kind of way.
Like wasabi or horseradish.
Only, this happens to be golden, viscous mustard oil.
It offers a similar kick in the nostrils, but also has a sharpness and nuttiness. It also has a high smoke point, making it versatile enough to use either as a finishing or cooking oil.
I had a chance to play around with it after receiving a sample of Yandilla Mustard Seed Oil ($22.95 for a 500ml bottle), made in Australia.
It bills itself as the only food-grade mustard oil in the United States that is FDA approved, thanks to its very low level of erucic acid.
As food writer and food scientist Nik Sharma explains in his newest cookbook, “The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained in More Than 100 Essential Recipes” (Chronicle Books), early studies in animals suggested that erucic acid — a monounsaturated fatty acid that makes up nearly half of mustard oil — may contribute to heart disease. However, other studies suggest that diets rich in mustard oil — such as those in India, where it has been used for cooking for centuries — might actually lower the risk of heart disease.
I can’t attest to what it does for the heart, but it definitely gives a bold kick to anything it touches. Cooking it will lessen its sharpness, but when used straight out of the bottle as in Sharma’s “New Potatoes with Mustard Oil Herb Salsa,” it will announce itself in full force.
This is one spunky potato salad. Since it’s not laden with mayo but mustard oil, it’s not overly rich tasting, just sharp and sassy.
Just boil the potatoes until cooked through. When they’re cool enough to handle, just cut them in half, and toss with the salsa, which is a chunky mix of toasted pistachios, fresh mint, parsley or cilantro, garlic, lime juice, black pepper and a generous amount of that mustard oil.
Enjoy the potato salad warm or at room temperature. It’s crunchy-nutty, herbaceous and full of wake-me-up flavors. If you enjoy leftovers the next day, the mustard oil will have mellowed a tad but will still give a tickle to the nose.
New Potatoes with Mustard Oil Herb Salsa
For the potatoes:
2 pounds new potatoes
Fine sea salt
For the salsa:
1/2 cup raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil (if you want a tamer taste)
4 o 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Fine sea salt
To prepare the potatoes, scrub them under running cold tap water to remove any dirt. Place them in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1 1/2 inches. Add salt and bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and let simmer until the new potatoes are completely cooked and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Your cooking time might vary depending on the size of the potatoes and the variety. Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and place them in a large mixing bowl.
To prepare the salsa, toast the pistachios in a small skillet over medium-low heat until they just start to brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and let cool completely. Add the mint, cilantro, mustard oil, garlic, lime juice, and black pepper. Fold and season with salt.
Add the salsa to the potatoes and toss gently to coat evenly. Taste and season with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Be sure to cool the toasted nuts completely before adding the fresh mint or the residual heat will turn the delicate green leaves black. To round out this potato salad more, you can add chopped shallot, bits of chopped smoked salmon, or even a soft- or hard-boiled egg or two.
From “The Flavor Equation” by Nik Sharma
More Nik Sharma Recipes to Enjoy: Beef Chilli Fry with Pancetta
And: Roast Leg of Lamb
Plus Other Potato Salads To Fall For: Gordon’s Red Potato Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing